Tag: musings

simplify

Simplify

simplify

Simplify
my mantra for the year
detach
declutter
disassociate
warmth and love and belonging
from things
and replace with
nurtured soul
nurtured mind
nurtured body
treasure my soul’s estate
embrace liesure
simplify
time.
ingredients.
thought.
surrounding.
let go
even of the books
everything that doesn’t belong in
quality.
primitive.
need less
to make room for more

“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify. Simplify.”
~Henry David Thoreau

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Thanksgiving | Real People, Real Struggles

Provo Food and Care Coalition

“Do you think they’ll let us in?” I asked my husband.

“Of course.  It’s not like we have to show a homeless bag to prove our status.” he snickered.

We got in the soup kitchen line and received heaping masses of salad, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, ambrosia, turkey, ham, and rolls.  And man, was it all good.

We hoped to find connection here.  From past experience, we’ve learned that sometimes serving without connection isn’t very fulfilling.  So we scanned the room to find some empty seats to occupy, and break bread with the poor and transient.  What would it be like to have their experience with them, instead of lord over them, serving?

Stephen wouldn’t talk to us at first.  Just a nod here and there.  Maybe he was embarrassed.  Maybe he couldn’t hear.  Maybe he couldn’t talk.  Maybe he wanted his space to eat quietly.

It wasn’t until Keri, who smiled at us and started up a conversation, did Stephen come alive and join in.  Keri and Stephen have shared several meals together over the last year at the Food and Care Coalition.  They didn’t know each other’s names, but they knew each other’s faces.

Keri was packing up her extra food she wasn’t able to finish, and a little bit more, to take home.  “Do you have a place to go?” I asked.  “Yes.  Because we’ve been able to eat for free here the past year, I’ve been able to make our rent payment.  They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday here – no questions asked.”

She was radiant.  She was friendly.  She was grateful.  She had recently come out of chemo.  Her son, Sam, was with her.  A teenager.  By his shifting weight and rolling eyes, I could tell he was embarrassed by her telling us her story.  I can only imagine what the last year of his life must have been like.  Likely no dad around, a very sick mother facing death, absent from his life as she fought for hers, maybe not always knowing where his next meal would come from.  By her friendly and gracious spirit, Keri defied my preconceived notions of the type of person that would be in a soup kitchen for Thanksgiving.

“Can I get you anything else?” one of the volunteers asked us after our plates were empty. I forget his name, but I can still remember his face.  40’s.  Handsome.  Clean and presentable.  You could say your typical middle-income guy.  He probably owns a house in the burbs, two cars, and a family.  But he admitted that he’d been laid off several months ago, from a University job he assumed he have forever.  As he looked around, it was as if his face was revealing his fear that perhaps next year, he and his family would be here, not as volunteers, but as a family needing a warm meal.

Provo Food and Care Coalition

Marjorie was sitting clear in the front all by herself at an otherwise empty table, enjoying the entertainment on the stage (volunteer singers).  She wore a read sweater and had a red bow in her silver hair.  Age had hunched her back over.

I sheepishly pulled into the seat next to her and simply said, “hi.”  “Hi” she quietly but happily replied.  “I saw you sitting here all by yourself and thought that I’d like to get to know you.”  As her kind brown eyes flooded with tears, and then mine in like reaction, she said with a glowing smile, “Well aren’t you a sweetheart!”  Her cheeks were almost as red as the bow in her hair.  She was beautiful, and I told her so.

She was visiting from Kansas her daughter who was in the food line serving.  She wasn’t homeless, or even poor.  She was just old – which appeared to be as lonely and crippling.  She was a different kind of outcast.

Marjorie and I connected, soul to soul.  When time and space no longer separate us, I’m sure we’ll be friends.  I may have made her day by talking with her, but she made my day by asking if I was a student at the local collage.  ; )  (I had to explain that I’m much older than I look!)

I so wish I had captured Marjorie’s portrait.  But it didn’t feel right to ask.

The guy in the Lynyrd Skynyrd hat was hard-looking.  Like, Stephen, he didn’t seem to want to talk at first.  But after Daisy, the seeing-eye puppy in training, came over to visit our table, Todd opened up like a little kid with a big grin on his face.  Who doesn’t love puppies!  This Thanksgiving was not the first time Todd had been here.  Though he never said how long he’s been coming, I got this impression it had been quite awhile.  And when he told me he had no place to go to, I likewise got the feeling he had been transient for awhile, when he said, “they make it harder and harder to even sleep on the streets anymore.”

Daisy the Seeing Eye Puppy in Training

Unlike Todd, it was D’s first time.  While he was eating his feast, it was Keri who told him about all the facility offered.  In addition to meals, he could shower, get internet service, and in the summers, tend the garden and eat of its fruits.  D was thrilled… how had he never heard of this place before, he wondered.  D has lived out of his car off and on for years so he can pay child support with whatever money he does make.

While D and I were talking, a gray haired man came up to our table to sit down.  His eyes didn’t look right, he walked with a severe limp, and he was signing to us.  Not knowing sign language, I stupidly looked at him and said, “I don’t understand.”  He persisted anyways, as if he didn’t really care that I couldn’t understand.  He seemed just happy to be ‘talking’.  But suddenly, he put his hand up, as if to say, “stop”.  Then he bowed his head in prayer over his food, and dramatically began signing his prayer.  It was so very beautiful.  I wanted to take a picture so badly, and I wrestled with myself, It’s too sacred, it would be rude.  But it’s so very beautiful.  So I took the picture, for better or for worse.

sign language prayer

My take away from this day was prominent: “But by the Grace of God, there go I.”  And there go you, and your family.  Not that these people don’t enjoy God’s grace.  They surely do.  They are beautiful and warm and friendly people.  None complained – it was amazing.  Keri especially touched my heart ~ after all she had been through, she was so gracious and loving, forgetting about herself and extending herself to others.  She was a true inspiration. She understands the real value of life… people.  In a world of gross consumption and rat racing, I found a peace in many of these people that is not often found.

This experience made Thanksgiving fulfilling, in a way that doesn’t involve stressing over what food to make, getting it made in time, serving everything warm, a mess of dishes afterwards – the result of hours and hours of preparation, only to be over in 30 minutes.  No, that all came on Sunday!  With the kids and grand kids.  And that was worth every second : ).

Kemp 2012 Thanksgiving

 

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Profound Lessons On a Farm

 

Snowy Woodlands

Hubs and I recently took a drive into the heart and true boonies of Utah to get a closer look at a more agrarian lifestyle.   Driving to nowhere, we eventually found ourselves driving into what felt like the land of milk and honey.  Truly beautiful and breathtaking.  A land some may only ever read about in books.  Green.  Water.  Abundant water.  Rivers.  Fish.  Wildlife.  Edible berries strewn throughout.  And they were good.  So good.  Trees.  Amazing trees.  Canyons.  Wildlife.  Wild turkeys.  Deer herds galore.  Large ranches.  Cattle.   Horses.  Sheep.  Country bumpkins.  Nicest county bumpkins.

A hard-working, simple kind of life.  A place worthy of receiving Zion.  A place so glorious I could not find it in me to take any pictures.  None.  So not like me.  It was too pretty and too sacred feeling.  At least for the time I was there then.

We ended up meeting up with some people who we had mutual friends in common with.  We went to their home.  Their life-giving/producing land.  Their homestead along the raging river where their kids play and their animals drink.  Where they get their own water.  Given freely by a God without regulations and additives.  Given freely with abundance in mind.  Sometimes, there is free lunch.

Driving on to their property we were greeted first by horses, then by turkeys and chickens.  Around the bend up the road were the sheep, and then the dogs.  So many dogs! And puppies.  After getting out of the car, we walked through the vegetable garden and fruit trees.  Which then led us to the river, by which the rabbits and pigs (and some of the chickens) lived.  Oh, and the peacocks.  Beautiful, amazing peacocks.

We asked them question after question about living a self-reliant life.  “Do you feel free?” I asked her.  “Yes.” she said simply and with a radiant smile.  I knew she was speaking the truth.

These kind people fed us dinner.  They are over an hour away from any real grocery store. But they don’t need one.  They picked carrots, potatoes, onions, lettuce, and cabbage from their garden (some stored in a root cellar), and together, we made a delicious soup and salad.  This is how they roll.  Every day.  Somehow with variety.

If that wasn’t enough, (they could tell we didn’t want to leave) they invited us to stay the night.  In the morning their preteen and teenage girls made us German Pancakes for breakfast.  And then off to church we went with them (to the smallest little congregation I’ve ever seen).  In the same clothes we came the day before in and slept in.  In clothes not worthy of church.  At all.  Yet we were welcomed and encouraged to go with them.

When we got home, the Mister of the house said he had some sheep to kill.  Around four in the morning he had heard some of them screaming and crying.  It turns out that two of his dogs got in there and roughed four of them up.  Two of them (at least) so badly that they had to be taken out of their misery.  My heart sunk.  But knowing this was true life stuff for a farmer/rancher, something in me was compelled to watch.

I cried when I looked upon the sheep with mangled up hind quarters and fresh blood still oozing.  And then of course, he had to shoot them.  I didn’t watch that part.  I couldn’t.  I watched, with a heavy heart, him skin, gut, and cut up the sheep.  There would be ribs for dinner that night, if we wanted to stay.

One of the dog culprits was wandering around the property casually and freely.  I could hardly look at him.  I was so mad at him.  At one point when we crossed paths, I couldn’t help but tell him how I felt, and scolded him.  He couldn’t care less, and walked on.

But the other dog culprit was made to be in the gated area where the sheep were being slaughtered.  After the Mister skinned the first one, he threw the sheep skins (with head attached) onto the dog.  The dog laid still, face and body covered in the skin of the sheep he had helped maim several hours before.  I was horrified.  It seemed a cruel, mean, and extreme punishment.  Then he tied the sheep’s legs around the dogs neck with a rope, like a necklace and made him wear it all day.

What is he doing?  I wondered to myself, in disgust.

“I’m punishing him.  This is how you teach them to never do it again.” he said to me, seeing my disturbance.

“What about the other dog, roaming around freely?”

“He’s not worth it.  I’m getting rid of him.”

A pause in my mind.

And then, the epiphany.

Of course, when life seems cruel and hard and impossible, and we cry out to God, “Why are you allowing this for me?  Why aren’t you saving me?  Why are you punishing me?”

He says,

“Because you’re worth it.”

“Because I don’t want to throw you out.”

Wow.  Just wow.

All these stimulations, and inspirations, and lessons within just 24-hours on a ranchers farm.  It’s no wonder why God told Adam to spend his time ‘working the land’.  How many lessons are there for us, if we were to take up the challenge and command to work the land as in the days of Adam and his posterity?

My heart is full and inspired.  My mind is reeling with possibilities.  How I would love to say goodbye to Babylon.  Farewell.  We’re going to the mountains of Ephraim to dwell.

That afternoon, I took the Missus blue-eyed, 7-month old, chubby-cheeked baby down by the river.  We sat on a rock inches away from the water, and I pondered all of these things by the quiet of the raging water.  The baby sat contentedly with me for almost an hour, looking into the water in a hypnotic gaze.

What a beautiful life.

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The Tapestry of My Life

The Tapestry of My Life in Collage

All of the modern day gurus, such as Anthony Robbins and Joel Osteen, are telling us not to accept things as they are, but to instead create the life we want. I’ve lived many years of my life subscribing to this philosophy.

But what happens when things are out of our control? What’s happened to me is a torrent of unnecessary frustration and pain. While I’m sure there is a time and a place to create the things in life we want, isn’t there also a time and a place for surrender? Surrender is what I am subscribing to at this time and place in my life. And while it may sound abhoring and weak to some, it feels like exactly where I need to be to be free of the chains of outcome and control.

Interestingly enough, as with many modern philosophies in life, the ancient gurus preach a different twist on this philosophy. They teach surrender. “You must learn to accept with love whatever comes your way,” says the movie The Nuns Story. (Thank you, Joanne, for directing me to this – what a whirl of inspiration I have been receiving since reading these words.)

Admittedly, years ago, I would have gagged at this quote. I would have thought how poor and miserable it would be to live in that space of victim and non-creation. But having been through too many circumstances which I’ve tried to control, and can’t seem to despite my very best efforts, I’m finding peace and freedom in ‘surrender’. I’ve let go of ‘victim’ and ‘surrender’ being synonomous.

Marcus Aurelius says, “Accept the things to which fate binds you.” and “Accept whatever comes to you woven in the pattern of your destiny, for what could more aptly fit your needs?”

I am finding his philosophy not only freeing, but highly romantic as well. I picture a gorgeous tapestry, woven together piece by piece, with fragments I don’t understand… their color, their shape, their size, and not until the tapestry is complete, or my life is over, perhaps it won’t be until then that I can see the picture and how perfectly beautiful all of the lessons fit together until I was ripe enough to fall from the vine, or pass through this life. The beauty of the thought brings peace and trust to my soul.

Until then, I’ll remain open and available to all the things my soul longs for. But I’ll let go of the chains of control that leave me in bondage to the have-nots. Instead, while fate works out my tapestry, I will live with intention and surrender, with gratitude for the blessings in my life.

“If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now.” -Marcus Aurelius

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Love Isn’t Love Until You Give it Away

What I Possess Seems Something Far Away

Today we came across a stranger that we felt impressed to offer a small gesture to. He was so touched that all he could do was shake my hand (the closest to him) while he hung his head and began to cry. As if in shame he quickly turned to walk away, looking back once to thank us with his piercing blue eyes. Already by then, we were both crying, too. Eye to eye, we connected on a deeper level than there were words for anyways. It was so special.

In those moments, I had an overwhelming feeling of all the sadness and struggle in the world. I felt the pain of this man, and I felt the pain of the world. This often oppressive and cruel world we live in. It should not be so hard to get along in. This modern world has gotten so complicated – no longer the Agrarian Ideal that it once was. With the flippant loss of a job, our whole world can be turned upside down.

Because I am a very ‘to-the-point’ person, I’ve been working on being kinder to people. To take the time to connect with people, even over simple and quick exchanges, like paying for a drink at the cafe, or paying the attendant at the gas station. Having done both today, I noticed that niether one connected with me or looked me in the eye. Instead they both went through the motions routinely.

I was not offended. I know that their jobs must feel route. I also know that somewhere in their lives they are experiencing pain. Pain is pain, no matter how big or small we perceive it to be. And we all have different levels of tolerance for it. I find that I can have more compassion for people when I keep this top of mind. And I try to emulate my husband, who is very good at not letting someone else’s behavior change his ideal behavior. I love this about him.

Last night while on our deck on our customary “sunset date”, Mark asked me how I would treat people differently if I knew that the Earth would be doomed in a year. I would take the time to connect. I would turn every exchange into an opportunity to be kind. So this is my quest.

Life is hard. People need a break. This world could be a different place if we were all just kinder to each other.

Love isn't Love Until You Give it Away

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